School of Earth and Environment

Rachel Huxley Rachel Huxley

Postgraduate Researcher

Email address:
Room: 9.157o

Affiliation: Sustainability Research Institute


Rachel has been involved in the sustainable cities field for many years as a practitioner. She currently works part-time as Research Manager for C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, running their global research on city-level measurement of the wider economic and social benefits from climate action. Prior to that Rachel worked as Operations Manager and then CEO for Peterborough Environment City Trust. Whilst at the Trust she established and led the Sustainable Cities Network, an informal network of leading UK cities to enable sharing of best practice and challenges. And before that Rachel first worked for the national sustainable education charity Change Agents UK.

Rachel’s extensive first-hand experience of the challenges, and opportunities, in achieving more sustainable cities and the gap between aspiration and reality led her to return to Leeds in October 2014 to undertake research into the processes and practices of sustainable cities.


BSc Environmental Biogeoscience (international) first class honours, University of Leeds


Green Alliance member - a charity and independent think tank working with influential leaders in business, NGOs and politics to stimulate new thinking and dialogue on environmental policy, and increase political action and support for environmental solutions in the UK

Research Interests

How to transform/transition to truly sustainable systems and societies

The role of cities in sustainable development

The process of change at a city system level

Teaching Interests

SOEE5222M “Project Management: Sustainability, People and Resources” – I teach the project management elements of this module.

Project details

Project title

The processes and practices of sustainable cities



ESRC funded

Project outline

The aim of the research is to analyse the factors that accelerate or inhibit sustainability at the city scale, with the intention of supporting the development of policies, processes and interventions that cities can use to increase their sustainability. Many cities have made a commitment to become sustainable but are struggling to achieve this; these cities, or the stakeholders in these cities, know what they want to do but not how to do it. The findings of this research will support cities to set policy and plans that provide a pathway to sustainability. By generating a clear process for realising cities’ visions the research will support the transition from aspiration to action.

The overarching research question is: How do different cities approach creating a sustainable city; what are the processes and practices of sustainable cities?

The subsidiary research questions, subject to more detailed scoping following a full literature review are:

  1. How can the sustainability of different cities be measured and compared?
  2. What factors support or inhibit cities achieving sustainability? How do these factors vary, and why?
  3. How do the mechanisms of becoming more sustainable (and the drivers and indicators of sustainability) vary at different scales of governance i.e. neighbourhood, locality, city, city region or nation.


Publications/Research Projects

Huxley, R. (2016) Overcoming Barriers to Making Cities More Sustainable: How Can Short-Term Thinking Help Achieve Long-Term Goals?. In: Dastbaz M., Gorse C. (eds) Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design. Springer, Cham

Smith, D., Phillips, A., Woolston, K. and Huxley, R. (2014). The Delivery of Regional Initiatives Supporting Improved Sustainability in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. Chartered Institution of Wastes Management.

Huxley, R.M. (2012). Peterborough: Creating the UK’s Environment Capital – The Role of Business. Conference Report, Institute of Directors 12th International Conference on Corporate Governance.

Research projects

Benefits Research Programme. Specifically the local, city and project specific aspect of the benefits programme to develop and test a global approach to measuring the wider economic, social and environmental benefits of Climate Action. Aiming to enable cities to effectively and efficiently measure wider benefits and use this to make a much stronger case for climate action. Currently looking at two areas: walkability and bikeability; and air quality.

Potential for Climate Action and Unlocking Climate Action. Research to identify and quantify the huge potential for expanding urban climate action. Drawing on the Climate Action in Megacities database, surveys and interviews with cities and city experts the research identified the potential for expanding climate action and the main challenges that need to be overcome to unlock this potential action.

HABiT (Habits, attitudes, and behaviours in transition). Researching habit discontinuity and the promotion of sustainable behaviours in the field as part of the Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group led by Prof. Tim Jackson (University of Surrey). The research was undertaken in partnership with the University of Bath (Prof. Bas Verplanken, Head of Dept. of Psychology). I led the team who delivered the fieldwork and input into research design.

Testing innovative approaches for achieving pro-environmental behaviours – schools as networks. Research for Defra as part of their Sustainable Behaviours Action Based Research programme. The research was in partnership with Brooklyndhurst. I led the team who delivered the intervention in primary schools and input into research design and reporting.,113